XeriscapingWhat is xeriscaping?Literally, the word xeriscaping comes from a combination of two other words: "xeri"derived from the Greek word "xeros" for dry; and "scape", meaning a kind of view orscene. While xeriscape translates to mean "dry scene," in practice xeriscaping meanssimply landscaping with slow-growing, drought tolerant plants to conserve water andreduce yard trimmings.What xeriscaping is NOT. Xeriscape is NOT dry Only. Xeriscape is NOT just rocks and gravel. Xeriscape is NOT necessarily lawn-less landscaping. Xeriscape is NOT native plants only. Xeriscape is NOT a boring mono-culture of spiny plants.Benefits of xeriscapingFor most of the western United States over fifty percent of residential water used isapplied to landscape and lawns. This statistic is also true in Salina as seen by the cities’water use below. Xeriscape can reduce water use by 60% or more. TYPICAL RESIDENTIAL SUMMER WATER USE BY FUNCTION LANDSCAPE USES 49% DISHWASHERS 2% FAUCETS 6% TOILETS 17% SHOWERS/BATH LAUNDRY 15% 11%
In addition to conserving water, xeriscaping: Provides attractive planting options. Minimizes pests and disease. Thrives with little fertilization. Is low maintenance. Saves valuable landfill space and money.Xeriscaping is more than simply planting drought tolerant plants; it is a system with 7fundamental components or principals. Listed below are the 7 principals of xeriscaping: Plan and Design Create Practical Turf Areas Select Low Water Plants Use Soil Amendments Use Mulches Irrigate Efficiently Maintain the Landscape ProperlyPlan and DesignXeriscaping should be designed around three main elements; sun, function/views, andtime/resources. First, the xeriscaping designer needs to understand how the sun willaffect the types of plants that are selected. Some plants require large amounts of sun tothrive, while others are more conducive located in the shade. Knowing how the sunaffects the selected plants is important when choosing planting locations. Plants thatrequire large amounts of sunlight need to be planted in open areas where they are notshaded, while plants that require less sunlight need to be located in the shade of largerplants or trees.Second, the function and view of the landscape is important. What is the function of thelandscaping? If the purpose of the landscaping is to provide shade for an area, then largerplants and trees need to be planted in a location to offer the proper amount of shade at theappropriate time of day without obstructing any desired views. If the function of thelandscaping is offer interesting color, than plants with specific color and bloomingperiods need to be selected to achieve this purpose. If the function is to provide an
aesthetic view or screening between adjacent properties, plants need to be selected thatwill grow to the desired height and density to fulfill this purpose. The function needs tobe at the forefront of the designer’s mind when choosing planting types and locations.Plants need to be selected that achieve the desired affect whether it be, screening,protecting, shading or creating a visual accent.The third and final element is time and resources. When developing a xeriscapingplanting plan, resources need to be considered. One of the goals to proper xeriscapedesign is to select plantings that serve their purpose with the use of very little additionalresources. This means that plants should be as self sustainable as possible with the leastamount human intervention and maintenance. While maintenance is still required, theidea is to place selected plants in areas that will require a minimal amount of water,fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide or time and maintenance.Create Practical Turf AreasNo other form of landscaping is more resource intensive than turf grass. Most turf grassareas require constant water, fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide and mowing. To minimize thecapital allocated to turf area, xeriscaping focuses on reducing turf areas to fit thefamilies/businesses needs, with all excess turf grass removed. Limiting the size of theturf grass area reduces the water and time needed to maintain the lawn. In addition tolimiting the size of turf areas, xeriscaping advocates replacing water thirsty bluegrasseswith tolerant grasses like Buffalo, Bermuda, and Blue Grama grasses.Select Plants Conducive to the Native EnvironmentXeriscaping requires the selection of plants that are drought tolerant and fit the specificpurpose of the landscaping. Since xeriscaping focuses on minimizing the resources used,selected plants should be conducive to the local climate and soils as well as resistant tonative pests. Plants should be selected and grouped together in irrigation zones withplants that have similar water needs.Use Soil AmendmentsSoil components must be tested prior to the design and plant selection of a xeriscape area.The components of the soil dictate which kind of plants will thrive and which kind willfail. If the designer has already selected specific plants that do not usually fair well in thesoil components located on the xeriscaping site, adding amendments before planting theplants will help the soil retain water and offer the appropriate nutrients needed for theselected plants. Landscaping with native plants may make amendments unnecessary.Use MulchesMulches are beneficial to xeriscape areas in many ways. Mulches cover the soil keepingthe soil cool, minimizing evaporation. This reduces the water resources needed tomaintain the xeriscaping. In addition, mulches reduce weed growth and slow erosion.
There are several types of organic materials that can be recycled and used for mulches.The best mulches are organic mulches because they also offer the benefit of regeneratingthe soil with nutrients during decomposition. Organic mulches include bark chips, woodgrindings, pine needles, and composted turf grass clippings.DO NOT use plastic under the mulch. It is a common mistake to install plastic linerunderneath mulch to prevent weeds from growing. This has several negative affects.First, the plastic greatly reduces the amount of water that the soil is exposed to duringwatering which causes areas where holes exist to become over watered and areas coveredin plastic to be under watered. Second, the plastic also reduces the regenerating affectthat organic mulches offer during decomposition. Instead of the decomposed nutrientspercolating into the soil, they remain on the surface of the plastic creating a new layer ofrich soil prime for weeds and unwanted plants to germinate. The end result is a weedinfested landscape thriving from a nutrient rich soil layer, while the main soil base isslowly being depleted of necessary nutrients due to the lack of percolating nutrients, allbecause of the plastic.Irrigate EfficientlyA well planned irrigation system can greatly reduce the amount of water used. The keyto irrigation efficiency is developing irrigation zones. Plants should be grouped intocohorts of similar watering needs. Low-water plants should be grouped together, withmedium-water plants group together and so on. Zoned irrigation systems allow thedelivery of the most appropriate amount of water necessary without over or underwatering. This is most effective when a xeriscape has components of turf grass areas andlow-water plantings.Maintain the Landscape ProperlyWhile one of the benefits of xeriscaping is the reduced maintenance, all forms oflandscaping still need maintenance. Low maintenance is not “no maintenance”. It is stillnecessary to keep the xeriscape healthy with well-timed mowing, fertilizing, pruning,pest control, and weeding. It is also, important to keep the irrigation system properlyadjusted. A little maintenance on the front end will save time, money, and resources inthe long run and will lead to some great looking landscapes.PLF – 112, 8-2008